The Fayette County Historical Society was formed after the county’s weeklong sesquicentennial celebration during the summer of 1971, when people recognized the need for an organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the county’s history. The first meeting took place on March 22, 1972, at the F.A. Sams Auditorium in Fayetteville, where Robert H. (Bobby) Kerlin was elected President of the organization. Subsequent presidents include John Lynch, Carolyn Cary, Lamar McEachern, Tony Parrott, Ted McAuliffe, Ed Bradford, Janet Mack, Sandra Woods, and Jack Landrum. Alice Reeves serves as its current president.
“My goal is to raise awareness of the Society,” says Alice. “Many people don’t realize the work we do and the resources that are available at our research center.”
The Margaret Mitchell Research Center at 195 Lee Street in Fayetteville is operated by the Fayette County Historical Society and is open to the public 10 hours a week. It houses collections for study and research, including most of the official records for Fayette County: marriage and probate records, tax digests, wills, U.S. Census records for Fayette County, family histories, including over 100 family files, cemetery records, and over 3,000 photos that have been scanned and categorized.
“Some of the photos haven’t been identified,” says Alice. “Sometimes people will come in and browse the collection and help us by recognizing family members.”
Genealogists and historians from all over the world have visited the facility to locate a distant ancestor or learn more about an event or place in Fayette County.
The Research Center also houses numerous unique collections relating to the Civil War. There are also numerous works devoted to the Creek Indians, the original inhabitants of Fayette County, including information on their famous leader, Chief William McIntosh. Information on the Marquis de Lafayette, the Revolutionary War hero for whom Fayette County was named, can also be found at the Research Center.
The Fayette County Historical Society is currently raising funds through sales of commemorative Courthouse tiles. The slate tiles have a laser image of the old Fayette County Courthouse on the front and a short history of the Courthouse on the back and are available for purchase at the Research Center for $25.
Other items for sale at the Research Center include books such as “History of Fayette County,” “The Heritage of Fayette County,” and “Cemeteries of Fayette County,” old calendars with photos from the past, coffee cups, Christmas ornaments, and post cards.
Something else that can be found at the Research Center is a walking tour brochure. The tour starts at the Research Center and makes stops at the old Courthouse, the train depot, Holliday/Dorsey/Fife House, the Hollingsworth House, Jack Day Park, Heritage Park, the Culpepper House, City Hall, Hugh Manson Dorsey Marker, and ends back on Lee Street at the Travis House.
The Fayette County Historical Society takes pride in its monthly meetings with featured guest speakers. They also produce a newsletter each month. According to Alice, many members say their favorite part of the newsletter is the excerpts from old newspapers. Their May newsletter included excerpts from The Fayetteville News from July 10, 1896, including a report of the attendance of Superior Court Clerk Stokes and Sheriff Mitchell at the annual convention of said positions in the Wigwam at Indian Springs, and a report of the largest fish caught that season – a carp weighing 15 pounds on Whitewater Creek by a John Hill and Jim Brown.
“Fayette County History is important to anyone that makes their home here – not just natives,” says Alice Reeves who is a 5th generation Fayette County native herself. “As families continue to put down roots in our community, our history will become theirs, too.”
The cost of individual membership is $10 per year. Sustaining, Business, Patron, and Lifetime membership levels are also available. The Margaret Mitchell Research Center is open on Tuesdays, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., Thursdays, 10 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., and Saturdays, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.